Millennials, Gen Xers & Work Stress | Omega

Millennials and Gen Xers are today's most stressed workers, according to researchHere are four time-tested strategies they—and all workers—can use to avoid burnout.

Jake Nickell, chief executive officer and founder of Threadless, a crowdsourced T-shirt company, says, “Success is defined in units of fun. It’s all about being happy." But these days young employees are smiling less and less.

Millennials and Gen Xers experience the most stress of all age categories, according to research from the American Psychological Association. These generations not only have the most stress, but also admit they are not managing it well, often resorting to TV binges, long naps, or alcohol consumption.

Financial strain—whether from student loans or not making enough money to cover expenses—is taxing on the body and the mind. It has been linked to both high blood pressure and depression.

Even for those who have landed great jobs, there is pressure to do whatever it takes to get ahead at work, even if that means getting less sleep and multitasking.

“For far too long, we have been operating under a collective delusion that burning out is the necessary price for achieving success,” says Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post and author of Thrive, “This couldn’t be less true.”

When she looks back, she wishes at 22 she knew that her performance could improve when she was "not only working hard but also unplugging, recharging, and renewing."

Shawn Achor, a pioneer in the field of positive psychology, discusses in his book, The Happiness Advantage, that “passive leisure” activities like watching TV only engage us and entertain us for the first 30 minutes, then they start sapping our energy. He recommends “active leisure” such as hobbies, games, and sports, which help “enhance our concentration, engagement, motivation, and sense of enjoyment.”

Here are four more strategies to help tense workers relax more and avoid burnout:

1. Make Time to Unwind

Journalist Sydney J. Harris says, “The time to relax is when you don't have time for it.” Research shows that “strategic renewal,” which can be anything from a lunchtime workout to a short nap to taking longer or more frequent vacations, actually boosts productivity and job performance. Try to avoid parking yourself on the couch for eight hours on the weekends and instead do something active or creative.

Philippe von Borries, cofounder of style website Refinery29, says he never eats lunch at his desk, and instead uses lunchtime as a means to socialize. 

"One of my biggest pet peeves is eating at my desk, he told Inc. "I can't do it. I just find that you need to have separation in your day. I usually try to connect with someone from the company over lunch. I'll have lunch sometimes with a friend, because I never have an evening free."

2. Own Your Schedule

Rather than checking email constantly or going to every meeting you’re invited to, take the time to plan each day and create your schedule. Choose the times during the day when you will check your email and make sure you have time to get work done without distractions. Try focusing on work for 30 to 40 minutes and then allow yourself a 10-minute break to eat a snack, take a walk, or check in with a coworker.

3. Work Hard, Play Hard

There’s no faster way to burnout at any career than working through the weekends. Sure, sometimes you may need to check in or work on a big project, but don’t turn it into a habit. If you’re feeling the pressure to work weekends, consider research that has found that a resting brain isn’t idle. Downtime is essential to brain processing and particularly important to those in creative fields. If you don’t give yourself time to play, you will be left with nothing but work to look forward to and will burn out quickly.

Miki Agrawal, cofounder of THINX and farm-to-table pizza restaurant WILD, says she meditates, takes time to workout, and travels when she can to help stay well amidst her busy entrepreneurial life.

"It's important to spend time with people who 'get' me and understand what I'm going through as I grow my businesses," she said.

4. Worry Less

A lot of work stress is in our heads. Are you worried that your boss won’t like your ideas? Wondering if coworkers noticed when you took a longer lunch break? Stop the mental chatter by not trying to guess what everyone else is thinking. Know that they are all just as busy as you. Make time to journal or talk to a trusted friend outside work when you notice you’ve got a lot on your mind.

It’s easy to get caught up in it all, but don’t forget about what’s important in your life. Richard Branson says, “Having a busy career doesn’t mean that you can’t live your life to the fullest. Prioritize time with your loved ones and put it in your work calendar as you would a meeting.”

© 2016 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies

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